On Friday night, we watched Dark Shadows on DVD, and on Sunday, we went to the matinee of Breaking Dawn, Part 2. That’s it; I have had enough vampires. Be they sparkly and super-hunky or fanged and slightly rotted, Ich habe genug.
One of my earliest television memories is watching Dark Shadows. We had such dreadful nightmares that my sister, who is four years younger, was forbidden to watch. Not that the crackdown ever lasted. Our next-door neighbors in New Jersey had three girls in our age range, and at any point in time, two or three or all of us were absolutely restricted from watching. But when your older sisters are watching, how can you stand it? One day, at the house next door, my sister decided to run through the family room to catch a glimpse of the horror fest, and ran straight through Mrs. Gallagher’s just-polished glass door. Not a scratch on Karen, but I think Mrs. Gallagher almost passed out.
Why did we love Barnabas Collins so much? When I look at pictures of him now, he seems like an emaciated, tired old man. He was just so mysterious—not to mention rich and well-dressed. It was Barnabas Collins who firmly established my opinion that vampires are always thrilling and impeccably turned out.
When I was in the eighth grade, my school friend Theresa and I devoured vampire novels. They were hers, and we shared about a dozen of them, one after another. I suppose I thought that she got them from her mother, who was an English teacher. Why I thought that English teachers would read such trash, I do not know. At any rate, I’m sure that for Catholic schoolgirls, they passed as racy romances: handsome guy creeps into a young girl’s room at night, does something very wrong, but the girl is completely innocent. Her health seems to be failing, but she finds herself falling in love with him. Now what does that remind me of today? Hmm….
Once I got into high school, we had to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula and watch Nosferatu. Talk about a rude awakening. Long, dirty fingernails are not romantic. If you’re shedding soil as you walk, no one is going to fall in love with you. That’s what I don’t get about the recent zombie craze. Why should I want to read a book or watch a movie about zombies? Not only are parts of them falling off, but they are hopeless conversationalists. I have read one zombie novel—The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan—and that was enough. Here’s the gist: Although they move slowly, zombies are quite persistent and hard to destroy, and they want to eat your brains and turn you into a zombie, too. That’s about it. Same plot, different terrified, still-living humans. Vampires offer so much more scope.
I went through a long vampireless period—never even read Anne Rice—until I became a children’s librarian, and along came Edward Cullen. Twilight was an occupational hazard. Still, look at the setup: powerful, perfect male is capable of destroying anyone without breaking a sweat, but he restrains himself out of his devoted love for a bland, uninteresting girl. He is pure goodness, and he teaches her virtue while she makes a mess of everything and tries to sin as much as possible. How messianic is that? Looking at romance plot arcs, that is one of the most basic. She is weak and needy; he is strong and powerful. He forsakes everything because he loves her more than she deserves. He saves her, and they live happily ever after. It’s an old story.
So, the “Twilight Saga” had a riveting story with great characters, and no one cared how well they were written. The movies started off hideously cheesy and campy, but improved as they went along. I was not really motivated to go to the last one, but David insisted. He is such a Twihard. So off we went, and it was not too bad, although I was always Team Jacob. It was much better than Johnny Depp’s Dark Shadows, which is really meant to be a campy spoof but was actually pretty bad. However, it was Johnny Depp, so it was obligatory.
There have been other interesting vampire books in the last few years: Thirsty, by M.T. Anderson, which is a non-romantic story for boys; Fat Vampire, by Adam Rex, who has fabulous, sarcastic wit; and The Radleys, by Matt Haig, a grown-up book about a vampire family. There are also great books with incidental vampire characters, like Cassandra Clare’s “Mortal Instruments” and “Infernal Devices” series; The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley; and Gail Carriger’s “Parasol Protectorate” series. For all the fangs in these volumes, none of them will keep the lights on at night. On the other hand, I couldn’t get through The Passage, by Justin Cronin. That is a serious hair-raiser. Besides, not one of the vampires in that story could rock a tuxedo.
For now, I think I need something more realistic—perhaps with a hero who can really dig into a nice salad.